Farmers not exempt from country's laws

OPINION: 

There are a few tell-tale signs leading me to the conclusion that dairy farmers are very close to the brink.

What brink is that, you ask?

It's the brink of being totally "out and proud" about unashamedly asking Kiwis to subsidise them even more than we're already doing.

What subsidy is that, you ask?

That'd be the one where public water resources are turned into private wealth generators via irrigation schemes, in such dairy-unfriendly land use environs as Canterbury.

That'd also be the other massive subsidy where taxpayers and ratepayers are already on the hook for all manner of mitigation and cleanup programmes for degraded water quality. In fact, the true cost of even attempting to repair the damage to our rivers from dairying has only just begun.

Yet, it seems the cockies want more.

Over the summer slow news period I have noticed a rather disturbing trend. It's subtle, considering the general un-subtleness of farmers when engaged in their default whine position, but it's there.

The rhetoric is now changing to bemoaning the low payout (naturally), how workplace regulations are specifically and unfairly targeting them (it's a plot), and the increasing rate of farmer suicides (maybe).

I know, I know. They've always moaned about such matters, but their whinging of late has taken on a whole new level of screech.

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Here are some of my personal highlights from the pages of our illustrious farming media.

"If it wasn't for farmers New Zealand would be a Third World country. For this reason alone, farmers should be treated with respect." Translation: Don't question anything we do. It also speaks to the heart of what I think is behind most farmers' evident shoulder chips.

On the subject of workplace rules - specifically the wearing of helmets on quad bikes: "It assumes we do not care about our children because we take them to work - but they are part of the farming future and they have to see it in action. It assumes we do not care about our own head because we will not wear a helmet."

Translation: I've already fallen off my bike and hit my head, which explains why I feel I should be exempt from all New Zealand workplace rules. I am a special case, that's for sure.

On the subject of a sharemilker being fined by the Waikato Regional Council, rightly or wrongly, for the destruction of a waterway without a resource consent, the Federated Farmers Waikato vice-president decided to write a masterpiece of dim-wittedness.

He thinks that the judiciary have been unfair towards farmer Bas Nelis because he's not an All Black. Or something.

While bemoaning the sentencing, he says: "Interestingly, public persons found guilty of some moderate to serious criminal charges are discharged without conviction because it is thought that a conviction would be a slur to their character, and may affect future employment prospects.

"The difference, that these individuals are national sporting representatives who want to travel the world pursuing their dream.

"Unfortunately for the rest of the New Zealand public, this benevolence from the judiciary apparently does not exist.

"It appears that it is Bas' bad luck that he is not a sports star of any note, and that playing in the Putaruru third-grade rugby team 10 years ago has no meaning in the eyes of the justice system."

Er, um, should it?

He then goes on to say something I found absolutely astounding in its false equivalence.

"There are rapists and murderers out there that get a more even-handed and balanced approach to their sentencing."

I'd also like to suggest that he sits down with some victims of rape and carefully explain to them just how tampering with a waterway can somehow be used in the same sentence as "rape". That I'd like to watch.

When will Federated Farmers ever learn not to let their lowly-ranked, media un-savvy minions loose on the media? That's what their highly-paid, communications minions are for.

These farmers putting pen to paper do more to get the general public offside than anything I can imagine.

Finally, I've noticed a plethora of articles hitting the media about farmer suicide.

Sad as that is, I've seen nothing to convince me that farmers are better represented in the statistics than other professions. I'm also of the belief that it is nobody's business other than the person who makes that choice, and their families.

There are going to be a million and one tough things to contend with in farming this year, and beyond. Increased health and safety and environmental regulations, serious financial woes, and climate change are all conspiring to make 2015 the perfect farming storm.

When farmers arrogantly believe they are somehow exempt from the laws of both the judiciary and nature, they will keep copping it from the likes of me, and others.

Can't stand the heat? Get out of the kitchen.

 - Taranaki Daily News

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